Thing:Some Thoughts On The Three Amigos from A VC. Very many great things have been written about this week’s LeBron James sideshow — if you missed it, let’s just say it combined all the most spectacular elements of a two-year-long infomercial, a Derby horse auction, and Alexander’s invasion of India. It’s become almost cliche, but it’s true: the problem isn’t what he did, it’s how he did it. Not since Ron Burgundy has a city so unmistakably been told to go **** itself. But let’s get beyond the question of whether we’re mad at LeBron or just disappointed.
The freshest piece on the matter (the one linked to at the beginning of this rambling) frames LeBron’s decision as an experiment being conducted by LeBron. It’s like nothing we’ve seen in the sports history of America, though the word sports is superfluous — a household-name for-profit organization’s labor has taken total control of its own factory.
In X’s and O’s terms, it’s not likely to work. The team won’t have any money to afford depth, James and Dwayne Wade don’t complement so much as duplicate each other, and this might be the biggest foursome of egos since… I don’t know, the Beatles (?), if you count Heat general manager Pat Riley. But let’s say it does work… will sports ever be the same? (ht Rafi Kam.)
Thing: As a Gentile, it’s hard to know how to approach this video. A Holocaust survivor, his daughter, and two grandchildren tour former German concentration camps and Holocaust memorials — where they dance to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
After watching, people tend to either feel goose-bumpy or uncomfortable. Rationally, the presence of an able-minded-and-bodied Holocaust survivor should dissuade any concerns of whether the montage is tasteful and appropriate — if he’s ok with it, you should be too. But it’s still unsettling.
And it’s all because of the song they’ve chosen. It’s an instantly mockable karaoke throwaway, for whatever reason. If they’d gone with a traditional Hebrew song, any traditional Hebrew song, even one we’ve never heard of, the video would be cool but unremarkable. Or you’d expect something like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, whatever — no problem (since apparently men with guitars know more about the joy and power of survival than an African American woman born in the 1940s).
But because “I Will Survive” somehow has become the definitive disco song, it feels like it’s not just the wrong song, it’s almost blasphemous.
But, of course, it’s the best possible song. This man is almost literally dancing on his own grave.
THING:Eat Your Words: Anthony Bourdain on Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz. Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (first four seasons currently streaming on Netflix), is notorious for challenging his own strong opinions. In this interview he discusses the value he’s gained from his willingness to be wrong, whether by traveling the world or preparing for fatherhood, and what doing it wrong can teach us:
There’s enormous respect and a romanticized reverence for what’s considered the “right” way—meaning, the classic way—and I think most chefs feel powerfully that one should know that before moving on. Like, “I’ve researched this, this is the way they were making it in 1700, goddamn it, and that’s the way it should be made.” Or: “This is the way they make laksa in Kuching and Borneo; that stuff I just had on Ninth Avenue is definitely not the same; ergo it’s wrong.” But, you know, what does “real” or “authentic” mean? The history of food is the history of migrating ingredients and occupation and foreign influences and accommodation.
Somebody who’d be very interesting to speak to on this is Grant Achatz [one of the pioneers of molecular gastronomy]. Here’s a guy who’s been trained in the classics, who knows the quote-unquote “right” away to do everything, but made a very deliberate decision to subvert it all. I think that’s admirable. We need people like that. We would never have had Jimi Hendrix if he’d stuck to the right way to play guitar.
THING:Wooden and Love by Joe Posnanski. John Wooden, the most successful coach in major American sports, died this week at 99. Though he once won 10 college hoops national titles in 12 years, he was even more beloved away from the game. Wooden famously wrote a love letter to his wife every month after she passed 15 years ago, his former players talk about him as if he’s their own grandfather (mixed with Moses or Ben Franklin), and his thoughts on life have become a rolling motivational quip factory over time. Posnanski looks through the lens of Wooden’s coaching style at the Pyramid of Success, a fifteen-block pile of Wooden aphorisms that appears to be a stack of pure cheese at first glance, and finds nothing short of a life plan.
THING:Clay Shirky: What I Read from the Atlantic Wire. Clay Shirky, described by WIRED editor-in-chief Chris Anderson as “a prominent thinker on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies,” details his reading priorities as part of a great series on media consumption by people you’ve heard of.
THING:Great African Singularities by Appfrica. Appfrica, a Ugandan software company, shows how African presence, language accommodations, and representation are alarmingly absent from otherwise globally focused pages by tech giants like Yahoo!, Google, Apple, Facebook, and more. Blogger Jonathan Gosier sees one solution:
The business world (and in this case tech companies) needs to be constantly reminded that they need you with cold hard facts. There are no other arguments. Show them the numbers, the patents, the inventions, the talent, the enthusiasm, the courage…the success stories. Don’t open your mouth to tell anyone anything or ask them for anything ever again…show them.
Thing: How Not to Depict a War from the New York Times Lens blog.The Hurt Locker: a deserving Best Picture nom that’s well-directed, -written, and -performed. But true to life? Its reception has been a case of mistaking grittiness for authenticity; seriously, a bomb squad wanders onto some rifles and then downloads sniping mastery from the Matrix, or so it seems? It’s pretty much a literate Call of Duty, or Rambo in Apocalypse Now skins. And the idea that it’s an anti-war movie is MOOTED by the movie’s final scene. In the Times essay, American soliders in Iraq remotely detonate the movie’s bona fides. So to speak.
Heads up, friends: This post is part of ENGINE’s decade-closing blogsplosion. Click here to witness the rest of the damage. The aughties!
It’s time for the exhaustive list of the Worst _____ of the Decade lists.
We try to be positive. But come on. When Pew concludes it was the worst decade in 50 years, and Time drops the 10 Worst Things about the Worst Decade Ever, it’s hard to forget this decade kicked off with Y2K — not just a fail fail, but the biggest fail fail ever — and has only gotten more and more bailouty and wardrobe malfunctionous since.
Would love to list nice things; just filling a void here. Kottke’s already got the best lists list covered. It has some worsts too, but isn’t nearly as horrific as what you’re about to endure Also, Fimoculous has the 2009 list of lists up and running — perfect for those getting the shakes at staring down the barrel of all ten years at once.
Our next entry in our series will be as pleasant as can be. But it’s darkest before the dawn. Wade into the shock and awful.